Journalists Roundtable

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Journalists Joe Garcia from the Arizona Republic, Valeria Fernandez from La Voz, and Ruben Hernandez from Latino Perspectives Magazine join HORIZONTE to review recent stories making news.

Jose Cardenas
>>> Good evening, I'm Jose Cardenas. Tonight on "Horizonte," a look at the impact the economy is having on the state. Also, a study released by the Maricopa County attorney's office on crime rates for undocumented immigrants. And where John McCain is sitting in the latest presidential polls. That's all next on "Horizonte."

Announcer
>>> Funding for "Horizonte" is provided by S.R.P.

Jose Cardenas
>>> Welcome to "Horizonte." This is our "Journalists' Roundtable." Joining me tonight are Ruben Hernandez, managing editor for "Latino Perspectives" magazine, Valeria Fernandez, reporter for "La Voz" newspaper, and Joe Garcia, viewpoints editor for the "Arizona Republic."

Jose Cardenas
>> Welcome all of you to "Horizonte." We said in the intro that we were going to talk about the impact the economy is having on the state. I assume one measure of that is the amount of coverage that your respective coverage publications are giving it. What does it look like in "the Republic?"

Joe Garcia
>> The business page has moved out to the front page. I'm sure everyone has noticed that. The big story in the headlines dealing with the economy. We have the obligation to not only tell the news, but explain the news. People are learning about very complicated business dealings for the first time. And somehow to explain to them how this impacts you and in terms of 401-ks, following stocks -- people want to divorce themselves from it, but -- through blogs, columnists we explain it, explainer boxes. It isn't just what happens on Wall Street but how it impacts you. That is what people want to know.

Jose Cardenas
>> Before we go to our other two guests, does the media have any obligation to calm people's fears? A lot of the problem seems to be panic.

Joe Garcia
>> The first thing that happens when the president says don't panic, you panic. That was the fine line that Washington was having, the White House, to do was saying the economy was fine when it wasn't. It became apparent it wasn't fine. Everyone was saying, what do you mean the economy is fine? John McCain saying the fundamentals are sound, you know, and they weren't. Everything was falling apart. There was that point when you had to say we have to fix the economy, or the whole world goes to, you know, to hell --

Jose Cardenas
>> I'm not sure if you can use that word on our show.

Jose Cardenas
>> What kind of coverage have you been giving to the economy?

Valeria Fernandez
>> A lot of what he is saying, but our focus mostly has been on giving information for the communities or where they can get services, get information on housing, for those people facing foreclosure, getting straight talk on the issues that have to do with credit. When tough times come around, a lot of people take advantage, take advantage of that. We are trying to put the information out there so that homeowners can know what legitimate help is, that is one of the things. I think we do have a responsibility not to add to the panic, but it comes naturally, including information in a way that ordinary people can understand it. Explain what the bailout means. Explain what help, if there is anything, for the ordinary people, and how these will impact them moving forward next year, because people right now are really scared and everybody is holding on to whatever little money they have to figure out what the next step is, and, I mean, these are very difficult times for the Latino community.

Jose Cardenas
>> Ruben, everything happening at break-neck speed. How does a monthly magazine like "Latino Perspectives" keep up with it and what kinds of things are you doing or intend to do?

Ruben Hernandez
>> Measuring the devastating impact on the Latino community, in terms of mortgages, foreclosures. They impact the Latino community twice as hard and as deep as they do the non-Latino community. 49% -- half of the -- double the amount of Latinos receive the subprime mortgages, and -- than did white people who got loans. So, these have devastating effects because those kind of rates are echoed in the foreclosure rates, and what we try to do is measure that, and also give information about where you can go to ask the questions to get some help, and but we also look at the causes of that. For instance, in terms of the Hispanics getting the subprime loans more often, called the predatory loans, a lot of that was not knowing the system. Trusting authority, even if they, you know, even other Latinos who didn't have the best of intentions and steered them into bad loans. Those are the kinds of things that we talk about in the magazine.

Jose Cardenas
>> There has been discussion in the national media whether minorities, and Latinos in particular, because of language issues, are being scape-goated for the current crisis. In other words, that they were getting into houses that were over their head in terms of affordability. Any concern about that --

Ruben Hernandez
>> That seems to be the dominant party's, administration and other levels method of, you know, saying that we're the victim of this, even though we had control over the economy, and those guys are the scapegoats. It is a common political tactic to get blame off of them. At the same time, immigration does affect the economy in ways that people can't predict. In other words, the attribution, or attrition of people leaving the country affects the country's economy, state economy, city's economy. This is why this adds to the crunch that we're feeling.

Jose Cardenas
>> You have been looking at this issue closely and studying in particular the Maryvale area.

Valeria Fernandez
>> Most economists call it the perfect storm. In the community, you have at least a 6%, 8% foreclosure rate. One of the areas that has been hit the hardest. It is a perfect storm because you have people losing their wealth, losing their home, all they had, all of their investment, savings, and on the other side people losing their job. Terrible here in Arizona, a lot of the people in the Latino community were working in industries related to housing, construction, people working, cleaning the homes, you know, and the chain comes down, and that is a terrible, vicious circle because it comes from the homeowner who is losing the home and losing the job to the community who is losing that homeowner, and that takes a toll in the community as a whole.

Jose Cardenas
>> What has that toll been in Maryvale?

Valeria Fernandez
>> Block after block after block of empty houses that are vacant and people are getting into them up to no good, stealing things. And that makes the community less secure. It lowers the values of all of the other homes around it, of the people able to stay. You have families taking their children away from the schools. That also hurts the schools. The elementary school district lost at least 2,000 students this year. That will mean a loss of funding for that school district, $8 million, possibly mean they may have to close the school down. And that is going to revert back to that community, to the people that stayed behind.

Jose Cardenas
>> How much of that is the economy, and how much is employer sanctions?

Valeria Fernandez
>> Combination of both, I believe, and it is very hard to tell which one, which one it is. But we know that there is a lot of immigrant community, we know the people when employer sanctions came around at the end of December of last year, a lot of people literally left their home, left their state to go to places that were more friendly. You have that, and you also have the second wave of the housing coming down and Latinos, immigrants also losing their homes --

Jose Cardenas
>> I understand you have maybe 300 homes in foreclosure in a particular area --

Valeria Fernandez
>> Certain communities in most -- the west Phoenix area, Maryvale, one square mile, 300 homes vacant, foreclosure, or bank loaned. That is definitely -- that is going to cost the community. Particular group -- I don't remember the name correctly, I think it is Tomahawk Neighborhood Watch, they set up to count the houses, called the city, told the city of Phoenix come and take care of these. We want our community to be safe, to be vibrant. And the problem for the city, they say this is a problem we can't help -- we can't take on these ourselves completely. It is a problem that has to do with the bank, federal government. It is bigger than the city. And then you see what this does to the businesses in that community when the people leave, losing consumers. Tighter credit, you have businesses, both sides, loss of revenue for the city. Here we are in the problem that we are.

Jose Cardenas
>> And I assume a big part of the problem with the city, revenue shortfalls, $200 million additional cutbacks. What is going on there?

Joe Garcia
>> Every municipality and government is feeling that. Where can you find sources of revenue? There aren't many -- everything is based on this growth, in Arizona particularly that is what we build on. Everyone says we should diversify our economy. We say that every time we go through a bad cycle and then it picks up because everyone is making money and living off the growth. There are not a lot of ways to make money. I can see the speeder cameras on the freeways, make a couple of million dollars to go toward the deficits. It costs the government zero because a private company sets this up at no expense to the state. Operates it, sends you a bill when you have been flashed, photographed speeding, you pay it or challenge it. There are only two options there. You can't go to traffic school. Free money for the state. Of course they will take it.

Jose Cardenas
>> You're talking about at the state level.

Joe Garcia
>> Yes.

Jose Cardenas
>> Even there they're talking about $300 million for this fiscal, maybe even a billion.

Ruben Hernandez
>> Right, exactly.

Jose Cardenas
>> How do they deal with that?

Ruben Hernandez
>> Interesting at all levels. The national, state, and the city, how the growth period accesses are collapsing in on themselves, and that is occurring at the state also, and, again, shortfall of revenues, tax revenues particularly because of less business, again, you know, people don't like to talk about this, but immigration, deportation, and evacuation, let's say, caused by the harshest state employer sanctions law, and policing policies, particularly in Maricopa County, are having an effect, and they filter up, okay, to the budget. You know. The state is dealing with that. Napolitano and the republicans have had to come to a compromise on that. They realize we have to save the whole ship now. We're going down. They're working together to do that. No easy answers.

Jose Cardenas
>> What does it mean for k-12 education, which has been one of Napolitano's favorite pet projects, it is certainly something that is very, very important for her. What is it going to mean for that?

Ruben Hernandez
>> It seems to be safe at this point. It may become a target in the future, if it gets worse, which it might. At this point in this fiscal year it is protected. It is one of her pet projects. She has had to trade that off with the Republicans for some concessions that they want. It looks safe for this year.

Jose Cardenas
>> We will talk about politics a little later, one possible impact of this election is that the governor may end up in Washington, meaning Jan Brewer becomes governor. Any sense what she would be doing in these same circumstances in terms of budget cuts?

Joe Garcia
>> I don't know. Both sides are going to have to learn to play together. It is going to be hard --

Jose Cardenas
>> If she comes in, both sides, all republican --
Joe Garcia
>> I understand that. I think there is going to be some change in the legislature after this election. I think the Democrats are going to pick up some seats and power. Both sides are still going to have to -- narrow majority now anyway. Tough cuts, no matter how you look at it, tough cuts. There are certain areas that you can't cut. They're written in ink. Very few programs are written in pencil. It is tough to say. I think it would be a mistake not to continue to invest in Arizona and education and so forth, because if you don't invest when the economy bounces back around, Arizona will be that much further behind, and I think most people realize that, except maybe the toughest, you know, cut government at all cost core individuals.

Jose Cardenas
>> Do you think that would -- a brewer administration, less of a focus on education than Napolitano?

Valeria Fernandez
>> It is hard to say. I mean, certainly, from a different party and she might have other priorities in her agenda. We really don't know. It is an unknown. I think he is right, Joe is right in the sense that she will have to work together with a new environment in the state legislature. There may be a majority of democrats there. It is hard to say because we don't know yet what is going to happen with Napolitano. We need to hear from Brewer specifically what would be her agenda. I'm guessing the focus, if Napolitano were to go, the economy and working on the state budget, that would be her priority, whole focus.

Jose Cardenas
>> There has been a lot of talk of bipartisan approach to the economic difficulties. Reality, it is very political. Latino Perspectives has kind of addressed this a little bit. Your cover story this month is the political merry-go-round focusing particularly on the Maricopa County board of supervisors, and you're saying is Maricopa ready for a shake-up on the board of supervisors? What are you talking about in this issue?

Ruben Hernandez
>> Basically the supervisors race in Maricopa County has been the most under-covered races in decades. It has gone under the radar. In our report we discovered that the board of supervisors like it that way. Look at -- consider it, third largest county in the United States, fastest growing county in the United States, have a 2.3 billion dollar budget that they administer. 3.4 million residents. That is not a Guadalupe. This is a major governmental entity that nobody really pays attention to or really knows about. That is why we decided to cover that issue. It's important also in that they have supervision, the board of supervisors, over the sheriff's department, which everybody is trying to figure out who supervises Sheriff Joe.

Jose Cardenas
>> It is fairly limited --

Ruebn Hernandez
>> In terms of budget.

Jose Cardenas
>> Yes.



Ruben Hernandez
>> Yes, I realize that. The power of the budget is a powerful lever. You cannot discount that. The board itself has been -- put more pressure on lately by a group called Maricopa citizens for safety and accountability, bringing to the forefront the issues of public safety and fiscal accountability, which before -- which has moved the issues in the county away from immigration, and they have put pressure on the board of supervisors by being at every meeting, demonstrating, bringing public attention to them that is very much unwanted by the board. And this year the board has for the first time in many years Democratic opponents. I'm talking about the Republicans, of course. The system that has evolved in decades for the board is for a Republican, a sitting republican to suddenly announce his retirement and to appoint for the board majority Republicans, to appoint a successor. What that does, they appoint a successor. That successor becomes the incumbent in the next election, of course usually Republican, done by consensus, even though they don't admit that, and then you keep the majority Republican block going through that process, and nobody has really questioned that. These Democratic candidates are questioning that. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the November 4th election. It also I think will reflect on the Maricopa County sheriff's office race and maybe even the Thomas race.

Jose Cardenas
>> Speaking of the sheriff, this group, M.C.S.A., is talking about more than immigration, but it is really all about the sheriff.

Valeria Fernandez
>> It is, certainly about the sheriff, they want the board of supervisors to take a more active role in getting involved in auditing the sheriff's budget. They have limited power, but they -- formality, they had to do it to get the 287 g agreement to give him the powers to enforce immigration. There is a lot of things. The third party when it came to the Guadalupe issue. They could have said, no, let's give more time to Guadalupe.

Jose Cardenas
>> The supervisors.

Valeria Fernandez
>> The supervisors. And they sided completely with the sheriff. Certainly the focus of this group is to keep the heat on the sheriff. But to bring attention to the board of supervisors in a way they weren't used to, like Ruben was saying. I feel they don't know what to make out of it. It has become this event once a month in which the board of supervisors has struck everything under the sun, and the situation is getting out of control, because the meeting becomes really what N.C.S.A., the group of citizens, and it brings all of the attention.

Jose Cardenas
>> They have been accused of being disruptive in a variety of ways, most recently at the Wednesday meeting this week. They tried -- I guess you could call it a different tactic and went from vocal objection to silent protest.

Valeria Fernandez
>> Silent objection. This Wednesday, when the public comments open up, we saw the members of the group coming and covering their mouths with tape. Once the public comment ended, they silently walked outside of the building. We saw members voice discontent out loud, not shouting or anything, but that caught the attention of the sheriff's office and some got a warning. I was right there. They were told that they could be arrested for trespassing because they were being disruptive, basically by opening up their mouths, by saying something, you know, exercising their speech. It has gotten very tense. A couple of meetings ago, a public meeting was closed down to the media and to the public as a consequence of what was going on, and this -- I have seen it firsthand. They're not violent. They're not violent. But we see a lot of security from the sheriff's office at the board of supervisors meetings, which I think makes things worse because they are protesting against the sheriff's office. It is a funny sort of situation in there.

Jose Cardenas
>> Now, Joe, "The Republic" had a piece, investigative article on the sheriff's office and the use of resources that got an interesting reaction from the sheriff.

Joe Garcia
>> I think you're referring to his T.V. commercials where he is holding up one of the papers is the "Arizona Republic," and he says, don't believe everything you read, and he actually says when I get this trash, I put it where it belongs, and it shows him putting it in the bin, which I think is a recycle bin. I hope it is --

Jose Cardenas
>> Environmental plug.

Joe Garcia
>> He called it trash, but I think he put it in the recycled bin, I have hope for the sheriff that maybe his awareness is rising just a bit. The board of supervisors are a political group and Joe Arpaio is a political force. He is an elected official. They have a hard time I think walking on his territory. Anyone who goes up against Sheriff Joe, there is always reprisals, and I think -- at the same time, you saw what happened with congress when they tried to use that budget leverage on the war, it backfired. It can backfire. The protests I think are great, people are being heard. The issue is up front. The issue is not going to go away. I think that as a state we still have to come to a resolution on this. I don't think the ballot initiative the one we have on November is going to do anything. I think the employee sanction law that we have really doesn't do much other than put a scare out there. No business has been prosecuted -- are they that hard to find?

Jose Cardenas
>> Does all of this negative publicity about the sheriff and his use of resources, will that impact the election? Does Dan Sabin have a chance?

Joe Garcia
>> I think he has a chance. I don't think he has -- I wouldn't say he is the favorite to win. Sheriff Joe is a tough force to beat. At the same time, "The Republic" made its endorsement, which I know a lot of readers disagreed with. If you are looking for law enforcement, leader in law enforcement, that the way to go was not with Sheriff Joe. Let's face it. It has become this strange political theater of the absurd at points, and it has become personal, which is strange, and it has moved beyond law enforcement and has become this very personal obsession almost.

Jose Cardenas
>> Ruben, another hotly contested race is County Attorney Thomas running against Nelson. What do you see there?

Ruben Hernandez
>> I see it being tight. I see Nelson as a well-qualified candidate. He has received some really strong endorsements, including former Republican County Attorney Rick Romley, who pretty much blasted Thomas in terms of calling him -- the reference to Joseph McCarthyism in terms of what he is doing with illegal immigration, keeps beating that drum, and to the detriment of enforcement against crimes such as human smugglers --

Jose Cardenas
>> Let me do this. We did want to say something about presidential elections. We have about 20 seconds, Joe. McCain, does he have any chance and how does it look in Arizona?

Joe Garcia
>> They were talking about plumber Joe, which isn't me, in the debates, and Joe six-pack, so it is not me again, so I don't know which Joe they're talking about.

Jose Cardenas
>> Is it over?

Joe Garcia
>> I think it is over. 11 points --

Jose Cardenas
>> And so is our programming for tonight. We have to end on that note. Thank you. Thank you for joining us. I'm Jose Cardenas. You have a great evening.

Ruben Hernandez: Managing Editor, Latino Perspectives magazine;

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